Top 10 Human Medications That Poison Our Pets
Pet owners who are serious about pet-proofing their home should start with their own medicine cabinet. Nearly 50% of all calls received by Pet Poison Helpline involve human medications – both over-the-counter and prescription. Whether Fido accidentally chewed into a pill bottle or a well-intentioned pet owner accidently switched medication (giving their pet a human medication), pet poisonings due to human medications are common and can be very serious.
Below is a list of the top 10 human medications most frequently ingested by pets, along with some tips from the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline on how to prevent pet poisoning from human medications.
This helpful information is from: www.petpoisonhelpline.com
How to Tell if Veterinary Care is Needed
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. When a medical emergency befalls our furry friends, pet parents may find it difficult to make rational decisions, especially if something occurs during the middle of the night. That’s why it’s crucial to have an emergency plan in place—before you need it.
Finding 24-Hour Emergency Care for Your Pet
Talk to your veterinarian about an emergency protocol. Does your vet provide 24-hour service or does he or she work with an emergency clinic in the area? Some practices have multiple veterinarians on staff who rotate on-call services after hours. Check to see if your primary care vet has partners who might answer an emergency call. It’s also a smart idea to keep the name, number and address of your local emergency clinic tacked to the refrigerator or stored in your cell phone for easy access.
List of Emergency Clinics in Hampton Roads
Signs Your Pet May Need Emergency Care
Your dog may need emergency care because of severe trauma—caused by an accident or fall—choking, heatstroke, an insect sting, household poisoning or other life-threatening situation. Here are some signs that emergency care is needed:
Pets who are severely injured may act aggressively toward their pet parents, so it’s important to first protect yourself from injury.
For dogs: Approach your dog slowly and calmly; kneel down and say his name. If the dog shows aggression, call for help. If he’s passive, fashion a makeshift stretcher and gently lift him onto it. Take care to support his neck and back in case he’s suffered any spinal injuries.
For cats: Gently place a blanket or towel over the cat’s head to prevent biting; then slowly lift the cat and place her in an open-topped carrier or box. Take care to support the cat’s head and avoid twisting her neck in case she’s suffered a spinal injury.
Once you feel confident and safe transporting your pet, immediately bring him to an emergency care facility. Ask a friend or family member to call the clinic so the staff knows to expect you and your pet.
First Aid Treatments to Perform At Home
Most emergencies require immediate veterinary care, but first aid methods may help you stabilize your pet for transportation.
Performing CPR on Your Pet
CPR may be necessary if your pet remains unconscious after you have removed the choking object. First check to see if he’s breathing. If not, place him on his side and perform artificial respiration by extending his head and neck, holding his jaws closed and blowing into his nostrils once every three seconds. (Ensure no air escapes between your mouth and the pet’s nose.) If you don’t feel a heartbeat, incorporate cardiac massage while administering artificial respiration—three quick, firm chest compressions for every respiration—until your dog resumes breathing on his own.
What To Do If Your Pet Eats Something Poisonous
If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. Trained toxicologists will consider the age and health of your pet, what and how much he ate, and then make a recommendation—such as whether to induce vomiting—based on their assessment. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.
This helpful information is from: www.aspca.org
People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets
Dangerous Foods?Because they're such picky eaters, we sometimes think cats know what’s best for them when it's time to eat. But the fact that they'll walk away from a piece of bad meat doesn't mean they'll bypass an open can of tuna. And that can of tuna can be just as dangerous. In fact, you may be surprised to learn some of the common foods your cats should never eat.
TunaCats can be addicted to tuna, whether it's packed for cats or for humans. Some tuna now and then probably won't hurt. But a steady diet of tuna prepared for humans can lead to malnutrition because it won't have all the nutrients a cat needs. And, too much tuna can cause mercury poisoning. Remember the saying, "Honest as a cat when the meat's out of reach." Your cat will see an open can of tuna next to the sink as a dinner invitation.
Onions, Garlic, ChivesOnion in all forms -- powdered, raw, cooked, or dehydrated -- can break down a cat's red blood cells, leading to anemia. That's true even for the onion powder that's found in some baby foods. An occasional small dose probably won't hurt. But eating a large quantity once or eating smaller amounts regularly can cause onion poisoning. Along with onions, garlic and chives can cause gastrointestinal upset.
Milk and Other Dairy ProductsWhat could be wrong with offering your cat a saucer of milk or a piece of cheese? Most cats are lactose-intolerant. Their digestive system cannot process dairy foods, and the result can be digestive upset with diarrhea.
AlcoholBeer, liquor, wine, foods containing alcohol -- none of it is good for your cat. That's because alcohol has the same effect on a cat's liver and brain that it has on humans. But it takes far less to do its damage. Just two teaspoons of whisky can cause a coma in a 5-pound cat, and one more teaspoon could kill it. The higher the proof, the worse the symptoms.
Grapes and RaisinsGrapes and raisins have often been used as treats for pets. But it's not a good idea. Although it isn't clear why, grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in cats. And, a small amount can make a cat ill. Repeated vomiting and hyperactivity are early signs. Although some cats show no ill effects, it's best not to give your cat any grapes and to keep grapes and raisins off countertops and other places accessible to your cat.
CaffeineCaffeine in large enough quantities can be fatal for a cat. And there is no antidote. Symptoms of caffeine poisoning include restlessness, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, muscle tremors, and fits. In addition to tea and coffee -- including beans and grounds -- caffeine can be found in cocoa, chocolate, colas, and stimulant drinks such as Red Bull. It's also in some cold medicines and painkillers.
ChocolateChocolate can be lethal for cats. Although most cats won't eat it on their own, they can be coaxed to eat it by owners and others who think they are giving the cat a treat. The toxic agent in chocolate is theobromine. It's in all kinds of chocolate, even white chocolate. The most dangerous kinds, though, are dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate. Eating chocolate can cause abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and death.
Candy and GumCandy, gum, toothpaste, baked goods, and some diet foods are sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol can cause an increase in the insulin circulating through your cat's body, which will cause the cat's blood sugar to drop. Xylitol can also lead to liver failure. Initial symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination. The cat may have seizures soon after ingesting the xylitol, and liver failure can occur within just a few days.
Fat Trimmings and BonesTable scraps often contain fat trimmed off of meat and bones. Both fat and bones may be dangerous for cats. Fat, both cooked and uncooked, can cause intestinal upset, with vomiting and diarrhea. And a cat can choke on a bone. Bones can also splinter and cause an obstruction or lacerations of your cat's digestive system.
Raw EggsThere are two problems with giving your cat raw eggs. The first is the possibility of food poisoning from bacteria like salmonella or E. coli. The second is rare problem but that a protein in raw egg whites, called avidin, could interfere with the absorption of the B vitamin biotin. This can cause skin problems as well as problems with your cat's coat.
Raw Meat and FishRaw meat and raw fish, like raw eggs, can contain bacteria that cause food poisoning. In addition, an enzyme in raw fish destroys thiamine, which is an essential B vitamin for your cat. A lack of thiamine can cause serious neurological problems and lead to convulsions and coma.
Dog FoodAn occasional bite of dog food won't hurt your cat. But dog food is not a substitute for cat food. They do have many of the same ingredients. But cat food is specially formulated for a cat's needs, which include more protein as well as certain vitamins and fatty acids. A steady diet of dog food can cause your cat to be severely malnourished.
LiverSmall amounts of liver are OK, but eating too much liver can cause vitamin A toxicity. This is a serious condition that can affect your cat's bones. Symptoms include deformed bones, bone growths on the elbows and spine, and osteoporosis. Vitamin A toxicity can also cause death.
Too Many TreatsEating too much too often can do the same thing to cats that it does to humans. It can lead to obesity and even diabetes.
Yeast DoughBefore it's baked, bread dough needs to rise. And, that's exactly what it would do in your cat's stomach if your cat ate it. As it swells inside, the dough can stretch the abdomen and cause severe pain. In addition, when the yeast ferments the dough to make it rise, it produces alcohol that can lead to alcohol poisoning.
Your MedicineIngesting a drug prescribed for humans is one of the most common causes of poisoning in cats. Just as you would do for your children, put all medicines where your cat can't get to them. And never give your cat any over-the-counter medicine unless advised to do so by your vet. Ingredients such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are common in pain relievers and cold medicine. And they can be deadly for your cat.
Kitchen Pantry: No Cats AllowedMany other items commonly found on kitchen shelves can harm your cat. Keeping food items where your cat can't get to them and keeping pantry and cupboard doors closed will help protect your cat from serious food-related illness.
If Your Cat Eats What It Shouldn'tNo matter how cautious you are, it's possible your cat can find and swallow what it shouldn't. It's a smart idea to always keep the numbers of your local vet, the closest emergency clinic, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center -- (888) 426-4435 -- where you know you can find them in an emergency. And if you think your cat has consumed something that's toxic, call for emergency help at once.
What Cats Can EatCats are carnivores and need meat. Talking with your vet about the cat food you provide and following the directions on the label will help ensure your cat's diet is balanced and your cat stays healthy. An occasional taste of cooked boneless beef or brown rice can be an OK treat. But it's best to keep it small and infrequent.
This helpful information is from: http://pets.webmd.com/cats
Pet Allergies: Making It Work
With a few changes you can keep your companion animal -- and manage your pet allergies, too.
Do pet allergies have you wheezing and sneezing -- again? Well, there are over 132 million good reasons for that.
That's the number of cats and dogs living in U.S. homes as of 2002, says the American Veterinary Medical Association. And while these four-legged friends are by far the most common companion animals in America, they aren't the only creatures behind the exasperating symptoms of pet allergies.
The Cause of Pet Allergies: ProteinYou'll find pet dander on just about every warm and fuzzy critter we bring in to our homes: from cats and dogs, to birds, hamsters, and ferrets. And just about anything with dander has the potential to bring susceptible people down with a suite of allergy symptoms, says allergist Asriani Chiu, MD.
But it's not a pet's hair, or even the flaky, dandruff-like dander itself, that causes allergies. Instead "it's a specific protein in the dander that people are allergic to," says Chiu, associate professor of pediatrics and medicine (allergy/immunology) at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "With any allergy, from hay fever to peanut allergies, it's always a protein in the substance that you're reacting to."
Pet allergy-producing proteins -- called allergens -- are also found in your pet's urine and saliva. Add to this the fact that these proteins are tiny, easily airborne, and ubiquitous, and it explains why some people can develop pet allergy symptoms simply by walking into an empty room.
What are the most common symptoms of pet allergies?
"I get a stuffy nose and runny eyes, very much like seasonal allergies," says Anthony Herrig, an Oregon web developer with cat allergies. Other symptoms can range from mild -- itchy throat, nasal congestion, and sneezing -- to a more severe, asthma-like response, including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Why Pet Allergies Hit You
Usually, not everyone in a family or household is allergic to pets. Just as you have your mom's smile or dad's laugh, you may have inherited your family's genetic predisposition to allergies. Add to this a higher risk of developing allergies to pets if you have other allergies or asthma, and it's clear why you may be alone in your congestion. What's not clear just yet, says Chiu, is why one person can have mild symptoms, while another is laid low with an acute, asthma-like response.
Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to manage pet allergies -- no matter how they affect you. But before you try the following tips, it's a good idea to make sure you really are allergic to dander. If you're not positive you are allergic to dogs, cats, or other pets, visit an allergist, who can help identify which specific allergen is triggering your symptoms.
Tips to Help You Cope With Allergies and PetsThough the best way to find relief from allergies is to avoid exposure to what you're allergic to, you can have your precious pets and live well, too. Allergists and pet allergy sufferers offer these tips:
Pet Allergies Tip 1: Change Your Environment
Pet Allergies Tip 2: Change Yourself
This helpful information is from: http://pets.webmd.com
Be a Responsible Cat Owner
Many people view cats as “background pets” who come out to snuggle or play occasionally. While cats may not require as much immediate attention as some other pets, they do require their owners' time and energy. To help ensure you're attending to your cat’s health, safety and lifestyle needs, follow these tips.
Spay or neuter your cat. Discuss with your veterinarian the best age for your cat to have this procedure done.
Take your cat for regular veterinary checkups, at least once a year. This will help ensure she’s getting the necessary vaccinations and that her health is on track.
Provide an appropriate amount of food and water. Be sure your cat is getting the right amount of cat food--not too much or too little. Keep fresh water out for your cat at all times. Consider investing in high-quality food to help minimize the risk of secondary urinary tract infections, other urinary tract disorders,or both.
Clean your cat’s litter box regularly. Not only does this keep the house smelling better, it also minimizes dangerous germs and bacteria. Moreover, if the litter box isn’t fresh, your cat may choose to go in other places in the house.
Kitty-proof your home. Electrical cords can look like fun toys to cats. Bundle cords together and tuck them out of reach to help discourage play. Cords from hanging blinds also can entice cats, so place them above the windowsill if possible. Keep choking hazards such as paper clips, beads or buttons behind closed doors and in sealed containers. Some plants, such as Easter Lilies, are toxic to cats so avoid keeping them in your home. Finally, try to keep the lid of the washing machine closed at all times – cats can easily fall into this “black hole” and find it very difficult to escape.
Take care when outside. If your cat goes outdoors, speak with your veterinarian about how to help protect her from pests like fleas and ticks. Also consider keeping your cat close to you by using a harness. Outfit her with a collar that includes identification should she get lost.
Get a cat sitter when you're away. If you’ll be out of town, leave your cat in the hands of a trusted friend or family member. Provide the cat sitter with complete instructions for feeding and care, as well as contact information for you and your veterinarian.
Try to keep your cat happy. Play with your cat on a daily basis. Provide him with safe and fun toys for exercise. Also, cats need to scratch. Provide a scratching post to help keep your furniture and wallpaper intact.
Help prevent the misery of biting fleas. Even indoor cats can suffer from flea bites, so consider treating your cat with a flea prevention product, such as Advantage® II for cats. Don't forget ticks. If you live in an area at risk for ticks, consider a pest prevention product like Seresto® for cats, which repels and kills ticks and kills fleas.
Enjoy! Being a responsible cat owner means you get to appreciate all the joy your feline companion brings you every day. And the feeling will be mutual.
This helpful information is from: www.petparents.com
Unlike us, cats can’t brush their teeth or find a suitable domestic replacement for chewing on bones and grass — their way of keeping their teeth clean when they’re out in the wild.
Here are some ways to establish good dental hygiene. After all, you want to prevent your feline from having to undergo uncomfortable — and expensive — surgery after suffering in silence.
That mild fishy scent known as "kitty breath" is considered normal. But if your cat has foul breath, this is a strong indicator he's having oral problems. If left untreated, your cat’s breath is only going to get worse. Like people, when an animal has bad breath and is drooling, the cause is often related to gum disease and/or tooth decay.
Give Them a Yearly Checkup
Unfortunately, a dental checkup is something most people don’t think about as part of the yearly trip to the veterinarian. But, just like people, cats suffer from dental issues that, if unchecked, can lead to serious health problems.
Be Thorough During the Checkup
It’s important to let your veterinarian know if your cat has bad breath or is bleeding from the mouth (usually noticeable after eating dry food). Occasional bleeding gums are nothing to become too alarmed about, but if your cat has a combination of bleeding gums and bad breath and these symptoms are accompanied by drooling, then he likely needs a deep cleaning or even a tooth extraction.
Establish a Cleaning Routine
It’s not too tricky to get cats used to getting their teeth cleaned. Adult cats are often more resistant, though, so it’s a good idea to get them started young.The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends getting cats used to the process while they’re kittens by using a finger cot or gauze, along with toothpaste made specifically for cats. You can also try dipping your finger in tuna water before rubbing it on your kitty's gums to make the experience more pleasant.
Brush Kitty's Teeth
Believe it or not, you can brush your cat’s teeth. Toothpaste specially designed for cats is readily available in flavors they’ll enjoy. Do NOT try to brush your cat's teeth with "people" toothpaste; if fluoride toothpaste is ingested it can make your cat severely ill. Once your cat is used to the flavor of the "kitty toothpaste," you can cradle your cat from behind, cup his chin, and lift up his lip to clean his teeth using either your gauze covered finger or a kitty toothbrush.
Stimulate Their Gums
Tooth decay usually starts with irritated or inflamed gums, so however you’re able to maintain your cat's oral health, don’t forget to massage his gums when you can. Not only will this accelerate healing, it will strengthen the gums so your cat will be less likely to suffer from gum problems further on. Gums should normally be pink and healthy, not red in appearance or irritated.
To Treat or Not to Treat?
Tartar control treats and chews are okay in moderation, but they’re not sufficient for effectively cleaning your cat’s teeth. If, however, you regularly clean your cat's teeth, special food supplements can be a good addition to an already healthy diet. Try using these healthy chews and treats as a reward for good behavior while getting your cat used to having his teeth cleaned.
Give Them Bones to Chew On
Cats are predators, so part of their natural diet consists of hard bones. Bones knock off tartar and help keep teeth and gums healthy. Since most indoor cats don’t have access to bones, some veterinarians recommend them as a treat. But, be careful not to give your cat pork, chicken or fish bones. These could splinter and cause severe internal injures. Raw bones are also better than cooked ones, since they are less likely to splinter.
Don't Wait Until It's Too Late
Tooth decay and gum disease have been linked to heart, kidney, and other serious chronic illnesses. Don’t wait until your cat shows signs of distress to have his teeth checked out. Many cats do not show obvious signs of discomfort until they’re in considerable pain. Preventive care, yearly checkups, and a good diet can ensure that your cat stays happy and healthy.
This helpful information is from: www.petmd.com/cat
How to Pill a cat
Cats love taking pills about as much as they enjoy taking bubble baths. Since you can't hand your cat a glass of water and say, "Take two and hiss at me in the morning," what's the best way to give your unwilling feline its medicine without any bloodshed?
Keeping calm is the key. Cats are sensitive to nervousness, and they may become agitated. Never try to medicate an excited or nervous cat. Confine your cat to one room, placing it on a piece of carpeting: cats may want to grip the surface until they figure out what's going on. Spend time petting, talking softly. Wrap your cat in a towel, with the head protruding. This protects you and secures the kitty for easier handling.
Placing your thumb and middle finger at the hinge of his jaws, gently pry open his mouth. Without yanking or holding too tightly, tilt the head back slightly, so you can see the back of your cat's mouth, where the tongue begins. Drop the pill into the center of the mouth, and then quickly close it. Rub your cat's throat, encouraging it to swallow. You'll know the pill has gone down the hatch when your cat licks its lips. Once your cat swallows, give it a small amount of water from a needleless syringe to help the pill dissolve smoothly.
If dropping a pill into the center of a cat's mouth seems like an impossible mission, a pill shooter can help. Usually available from your veterinarian or pet supply store, it looks like a straw with a soft rubbery tip that encases the pill, and it won't hurt the cat. The other end functions like a syringe: Push it in, and it ejects the pill into the cat's mouth. Before you use a pill shooter, let your cat see, sniff and get familiar with it. Once you're ready, open your cat's mouth, place the shooter gently into the back of the mouth, and pop the pill. Hold the cat's mouth closed, stroking the throat until the pill is swallowed.
Some cats will not be coerced, tricked or forced into taking pills. For stubborn felines, pill pockets are the (delicious) answer. These small, moist treats have an opening, or pocket, for a pill. Place the pill inside, pinch the top closed, and offer it to the cat. Available in several feline-favorite flavors, aromatic pill pockets mask any "medicinal" scent the cat may pick up. Many cats gobble pill pockets without hesitation, but offer your cat an empty one before you actually need to use it to make sure they'll be acceptable.
Hide in food
If your cat turns up whiskers at pill pockets, he or she may perk up at the prospect of cheese. Few cats can resist this treat, even wrapped around an unwelcome pill. Place a small amount of cream cheese or soft butter around the pill, covering it from view. He or she may take it in one gulp, but make sure nothing gets spit out later. Your cat will be so busy licking up every bit of dairy, it won't notice the surprise in its center. Cats generally adore cheese and butter, so this method is usually successful, for a short-term prescription.
Unless your vet recommends it, never crush or grind pills to put in food or water. Crushed medication can taste bitter, so your cat won't get the full dosage.
To give ear drops, restrain the cat as if you're giving a pill. Standing behind the cat, gently roll back one ear at a time. Place the drops in the, and then fold and rub the ear to ensure the medication gets absorbed. Never use a Q-tip on a cat's ear, since it can push debris into the ear canal.
No matter how you medicate your cat, always offer praise, pets and a treat when the deed is done. This will help your cat associate something fun with an activity it would rather avoid.
This helpful information is from: www.animalplanet.com
How to trim Claws
Does your kitty disappear when the clippers come out? Do you have to wrap her in a towel to give her a manicure? According to our behavior experts, calm, enjoyable nail-trimming sessions are not only possible-that’s how they should always be! Check out the following tips for getting kitty to relax while you trim, turning nail-clipping sessions into enjoyable together time.
Setting the Mood
Ideally you should introduce your cat to nail clipping when she’s a kitten. Choose a chair in a quiet room where you can comfortably sit your cat on your lap. Get her when she’s relaxed and even sleepy, like in her groggy, after-meal state. Take care that she isn’t able to spy any birds, wild animals or action outside nearby windows-and make sure no other pets are around.
Make Friends with the Paw
Gently take one of your cat’s paws between your fingers and massage for no longer than the count of three. If your cat pulls her paw away, don’t squeeze or pinch, just follow her gesture, keeping in gentle contact. When she’s still again, give her pad a little press so that the nail extends out, then release her paw and immediately give her a treat. Do this every other day on a different toe until you’ve gotten to know all ten.
Get Acquainted with the Clipper
Your cat should be at ease with the sound of the clippers before you attempt to trim her nails. Sit her on your lap, put a piece of uncooked spaghetti into the clippers and hold them near your cat. (If she sniffs the clippers, set a treat on top of them for her to eat.) Next, while massaging one of your cat’s toes, gently press her toe pad. When the nail extends, clip the spaghetti with the clippers while still holding your cat’s paw gently. Now release her toe and quickly give her a treat.
Never Cut to the Quick
The pink part of a cat’s nail, called the quick, is where the nerves and blood vessels are. Do NOT cut this sensitive area. Snip only the white part of the claw. It’s better to be cautious and cut less of the nail rather than risk cutting this area. If you do accidentally cut the quick, any bleeding can be stopped with a styptic powder or stick. It’s a good idea to keep it nearby while you trim.
Time to Clip
With your cat in your lap facing away from you, take one of her toes in your hand, massage and press the pad until the nail extends. Check to see how much of a trim her nails need and notice where the quick begins. Now trim only the sharp tip of one nail, release your cat’s toe and quickly give her a treat. If your cat didn’t notice, clip another nail, but don’t trim more than two claws in one sitting until your cat is comfortable. Be sure to reward her with a special treat afterward. Please note, you may want to do just one paw at a time for the first couple of sessions.
A nail-trimming every ten days to two weeks is a nice routine to settle into. If your cat refuses to let you clip her claws, ask your vet or a groomer for help.
What NOT to Do
This helpful information is from: http://pets.webmd.com/cats
Cats like to scratch. They scratch during play. They scratch while stretching. They scratch to mark territory or as a threatening signal other cats. And because cats’ claws need regular sharpening, cats scratch on things to remove frayed, worn outer claws and expose new, sharper claws. All this scratching can cause a lot of damage to furniture, drapes and carpeting!
What to Do About Your Cat’s Scratching Habits
The best tactic when dealing with scratching is not to try to stop your cat from scratching, but instead to teach her where and what to scratch. An excellent approach is to provide her with appropriate, cat-attractive surfaces and objects to scratch, such as scratching posts. The following steps will help you encourage your cat to scratch where you want her to:
What NOT to Do
Should You Declaw Your Cat?
Some people declaw their cats to prevent or resolve a scratching problem. The term “declaw” is a misnomer. It implies that declawing only involves the removal of a cat’s claws. In reality, declawing involves amputating the end of a cat’s toes. Cats suffer significant pain while recovering from declawing. An alternative surgery, a tendonectomy, severs the tendons in a cat’s toes so that she’s unable to extend her nails to scratch. This procedure may or may not cause less pain. However, if you choose this type of surgery, you must clip your cat’s nails regularly because she’ll be unable to maintain them herself.
The ASPCA discourages declawing and tendonectomies because of the extreme pain that these surgeries inevitably cause. Both procedures are illegal in some European countries because they’re considered cruel to animals. We only recommend such surgeries if a cat caretaker has unsuccessfully tried everything else to resolve scratching behavior and is considering euthanasia.
This helpful information is from: www.aspca.org
Litter Box Problems
At least 10% of all cats develop elimination problems. Some stop using the box altogether. Some only use their boxes for urination or defecation but not for both. Still others eliminate both in and out of their boxes. Elimination problems can develop as a result of conflict between multiple cats in a home, as a result of a dislike for the litter-box type or the litter itself, as a result of a past medical condition, or as a result of the cat deciding she doesn’t like the location or placement of the litter box.
Once a cat avoids her litter box for whatever reason, her avoidance can become a chronic problem because the cat can develop a surface or location preference for elimination—and this preference might be to your living room rug or your favorite easy chair. The best approach to dealing with these problems is to prevent them before they happen by making your cat’s litter boxes as cat-friendly as possible. See our common litter-box management issues below, and our ways to make litter boxes cat-friendly. It is also important that you pay close attention to your cat’s elimination habits so that you can identify problems in the making. If your cat does eliminate outside her box, you must act quickly to resolve the problem before she develops a strong preference for eliminating on an unacceptable surface or in an unacceptable area.
Litter box use problems in cats can be diverse and complex. Behavioral treatments are often effective, but the treatments must be tailored to the cat’s specific problem. Be certain to read the entire article to help you identify your particular cat’s problem and to familiarize yourself with the different resolution approaches to ensure success with your cat.
Why Do Some Cats Eliminate Outside the Litter Box?
Litter-Box Management Problems
If your cat isn’t comfortable with her litter box or can’t easily access it, she probably won’t use it. The following common litter-box problems might cause her to eliminate outside of her box:
Some cats develop preferences for eliminating on certain surfaces or textures like carpet, potting soil or bedding.
Litter Preference or Aversion
As predators who hunt at night, cats have sensitive senses of smell and touch to help them navigate through their environment. These sensitivities can also influence a cat’s reaction to her litter. Cats who have grown accustomed to a certain litter might decide that they dislike the smell or feel of a different litter.
Location Preference or Aversion
Like people and dogs, cats develop preferences for where they like to eliminate and may avoid locations they don’t like. This means they might avoid their litter box if it’s in a location they dislike.
Inability to Use the Litter Box
Geriatric cats or cats with physical limitations may have a difficult time using certain types of litter boxes such as top-entry boxes, or litter boxes with high sides.
Negative Litter-Box Association
There are many reasons why a cat who has reliably used her litter box in the past starts to eliminate outside of the box. One common reason is that something happened to upset her while she was using the litter box. If this is the case with your cat, you might notice that she seems hesitant to return to the box. She may enter the box, but then leave very quickly—sometimes before even using the box.
One common cause for this is painful elimination. If your cat had a medical condition that caused her pain when she eliminated, she may have learned to associate the discomfort with using her litter box. Even if your cat’s health has returned to normal, that association may still cause her to avoid her litter box.
Stress can cause litter-box problems. Cats can be stressed by events that their owners may not think of as traumatic. Changes in things that even indirectly affect the cat, like moving, adding new animals or family members to your household—even changing your daily routine—can make your cat feel anxious.
Multi-Cat Household Conflict
Sometimes one or more cats in a household control access to litter boxes and prevent the other cats from using them. Even if one of the cats isn’t actually confronting the other cats in the litter box, any conflict between cats in a household can create enough stress to cause litter-box problems.
Medical Problems That Can Cause Inappropriate Elimination
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
If your cat frequently enters her litter box and seems to produce only small amounts of urine, she may have a urinary tract infection. See a veterinarian to rule out this possible medical problem.
Feline Interstitial Cystitis
Feline interstitial cystitis is a neurological disease that affects a cat’s bladder (“cystitis” means inflamed bladder). Cats with cystitis will attempt to urinate frequently and may look as if they are straining, but with little success. They may lick themselves where they urinate, and they may have blood in their urine. Feline interstitial cystitis can cause a cat to eliminate outside of her box, but this is only because of the increased urgency to urinate and because there is pain involved in urination. Feline interstitial cystitis is very serious and can be life-threatening to the cat. It must be treated immediately by a veterinarian.
Kidney Stones or Blockage
If your cat has kidney stones or a blockage, she may frequently enter her litter box. She may also experience pain and meow or cry when she tries to eliminate. Her abdomen may be tender to the touch.
Other Behavior Problems to Rule Out
Urine marking is a problem that most pet owners consider a litter box problem since it involves elimination outside the box, but the cause and treatment are entirely different from other litter-box problems and therefore it is considered a rule out. A cat who urine marks will regularly eliminate in her litter box, but will also deposit urine in other locations, usually on vertical surfaces. When marking, she’ll usually back up to a vertical object like a chair side, wall or speaker, stand with her body erect and her tail extended straight up in the air, and spray urine onto the surface. Often her tail will twitch while she’s spraying. The amount of urine a cat sprays when she’s urine marking is usually less than the amount she would void during regular elimination in her box. For more information about this problem, please see our article,Urine Marking in Cats.
Basic Tips for Making Cats Feel Better About Using Their Litter Boxes
The first step in resolving elimination outside the litter box is to rule out urine marking and medical problems. Have your cat checked thoroughly by a veterinarian. Once your veterinarian determines that your cat doesn’t have a medical condition or issue, try following these guidelines:
If your cat seems to prefer eliminating on a certain kind of surface or in a certain location, you’ll need to make that surface or its location less appealing. If the preference is in a dark area, try putting a bright light or, even better, a motion-activated light in the area. You can also make surfaces less pleasant to stand on by placing upside-down carpet runners, tin foil or double-sided sticky tape where your cat has eliminated in the past. At the same time, provide your cat with extra litter boxes in acceptable places in case part of her problem is the location of her usual litter box, and be sure to give her multiple kinds of litter to choose from so that she can show you which one she prefers. Put the boxes side-by-side for a while, each with a different type of litter, and check to see which one your cat decides to use.
Clean accidents thoroughly with an enzymatic cleanser designed to neutralize pet odors. You can find this kind of cleaner at most pet stores.
If Your Cat Has Developed a Litter Preference or Aversion
Cats usually develop a preference for litter type and scent as kittens. Some cats adapt to a change of litter without any problem at all, while other cats may feel uncomfortable using a type of litter that they didn’t use when they were young.
If you think your cat may dislike her litter type, texture or smell, try offering her different types of litter to use. Cats generally prefer clumping litter with a medium to fine texture. They also usually prefer unscented litter. To help your cat pick her preferred litter, put a few boxes side-by-side with different types of litter in them. She’ll use the one the she likes best.
Clean accidents thoroughly with an enzymatic cleanser designed to neutralize pet odors. You can find this kind of cleaner at most pet stores.
If Your Cat Is Unable to Use Her Litter Box
Special-needs cats such as those who are older, arthritic or still very young might have trouble with certain types of litter boxes. Boxes that have sides that are too high or have a top-side opening might make it difficult for your cat to enter or leave the box. Try switching to a litter box with low sides.
As in any situation where the cat may have eliminated outside her box, clean accidents thoroughly with an enzymatic cleanser designed to neutralize pet odors. You can find this kind of cleaner at most pet stores.
Treatment for Negative Litter Box Association
If your cat has experienced some kind of frightening or upsetting event while using her litter box, she could associate that event with the litter box and avoid going near it. Things that might upset your cat while she’s eliminating in her box include being cornered or trapped by a dog, cat or person, hearing a loud noise or commotion, or seeing something frightening or startling. These experiences—or any other disturbing experience—could make your cat very reluctant to enter her litter box. If your cat is afraid of her litter box, you may notice her running into the box and then leaving again very quickly, sometimes before she’s finished eliminating. You may also notice her eliminating nearby, but not inside her box. This means that your cat is worried about using her box, especially if she has reliably used litter box in the past.
Changing the Way Your Cat Feels
If your cat associates her litter box with unpleasant things, you can work to help her develop new and pleasant associations. Cats can’t be forced to enjoy something, and trying to show your cat that her litter box is safe by placing her in the box will likely backfire and increase her dislike of the box. It’s usually not a good idea to try to train your cat to use her litter box by offering her treats like you would a dog, because many cats do not like attention while they’re eliminating. However, a professional animal behavior consultant, such as a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) may be able to help you design a successful retraining or counterconditioning program. Please see our article,Finding Professional Behavior Help, for information about locating an applied animal behavior professional.
Sometimes retraining to overcome litter-box fears or aversions may not be necessary. Here are some steps that you can try to help your cat learn new pleasant associations:
Treatment for Household Stress
Cats sometimes stop using their litter boxes when they feel stressed. Identify and, if possible, eliminate any sources of stress or frustration in your cat’s environment. For instance, keep her food bowls full and in the same place, keep her routine as predictable as possible, prevent the dog from chasing her, close blinds on windows and doors so she isn’t upset by cats outside. If you can’t eliminate sources of stress, try to reduce them. Incorporate the use of sprays or diffusers that deliver a synthetic pheromone that has been shown to have some effect in relieving stress in cats.
Treatment for Multi-Cat Household Conflict
Sometimes an elimination problem can develop as a result of conflict between cats who live together. If you have multiple cats and aren’t sure which cat is soiling, speak with your veterinarian about giving fluorescein, a harmless dye, to one of your cats. Although the dye does not usually stain carpeting, it causes urine to glow blue under ultraviolet light for about 24 hours. If you can’t get or use fluorescein, you can temporarily confine your cats, one at a time, to determine which one is eliminating outside of the litter boxes in your home.
If there is a conflict between your cats and one of them seems stressed, provide additional litter boxes in locations where the anxious cat spends the majority of her time. Also be sure to provide adequate resting areas for each cat. It can very useful in multi-cat households to create vertical resting spots on shelves or window sills or by buying multi-perch cat trees. It may help to distribute resources such as food, water, cat posts or trees, and litter boxes so that each individual cat can make use of them without coming into contact or having a conflict with one of the other cats. Using synthetic pheromone sprays or diffusers can reduce general social stress in your household.
Always consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before giving your cat any type of medication for a behavior problem.
Medications can provide additional help in treating inappropriate elimination when the behavior is in response to stress or anxiety. It’s unlikely to be helpful if your cat eliminates outside her litter box because of litter-management problems, an aversion to a particular kind of litter or location, a preference for a particular surface or location, or a physical inability to use the box. If you’d like to explore this option, speak with your veterinarian, a veterinary behaviorist or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who can work closely with your vet. Please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, to locate one of these professionals in your area.
What NOT to Do
Regardless of what you do so solve your cat’s elimination problems, here are a few things to avoid:
This helpful information is from: www.aspca.org
Older Cats with Behavior Problems
The Effects of Aging
As they age, cats often suffer a decline in functioning, including their cognitive functioning. It’s estimated that cognitive decline—referred to as feline cognitive dysfunction, or FCD—affects more than 55% of cats aged 11 to 15 years and more than 80% of cats aged 16 to 20 years. Memory, ability to learn, awareness, and sight and hearing perception can all deteriorate in cats affected with FCD. This deterioration can cause disturbances in sleeping patterns, disorientation or reduced activity. It can make cats forget previously learned habits they once knew well, such as the location of the litter box or their food bowls. It can increase their anxiety and tendency to react aggressively. It can also change their social relationships with you and with other pets in your home. Understanding the changes your cat is undergoing can help you compassionately and effectively deal with behavior problems that may arise in her senior years.
Some effects of aging aren’t related to cognitive dysfunction. Often these effects can contribute to behavior changes that only look like cognitive decline. Be sure to report all changes you see to your cat’s veterinarian. Don’t assume that your cat is “just getting old” and nothing can be done to help her. Many changes in behavior are signs of treatable medical disorders, and there are a variety of therapies that can comfort your cat and ease her symptoms, including any pain she might be experiencing.
Cognitive Dysfunction Checklist
The following behaviors may indicate cognitive dysfunction in your senior cat:
Learning and Memory
Ruling Out Other Causes for Your Cat’s Behavior
If your cat shows any of the symptoms or changes listed above, your first step is to take her to the veterinarian to determine whether there is a specific medical cause for her behavior.
Any medical or degenerative illness that causes pain, discomfort or decreased mobility—such as arthritis, dental disease, thyroid dysfunction, cancer, impaired sight or hearing, or urinary tract disease—can lead to increased sensitivity and irritability, increased anxiety about being touched or approached, increased aggression (because your cat may choose to threaten and bite rather than move away), decreased responsiveness to your voice, reduced ability to adapt to change, and reduced ability to get to usual elimination areas.
If medical problems are ruled out, and if primary behavior problems unrelated to aging are ruled out (for example, problems that started years before your cat began aging), your cat’s behavior may be attributed to the effects of aging on the brain.
Treating Cognitive Dysfunction
If cognitive dysfunction is the only logical explanation for changes in your cat’s behavior, the next step is to seek therapy. Treatment mainly consists of making helpful changes to your cat’s environment and keeping her daily schedule consistent. There are also some medicines that may help cats with FCD, such as selegiline hydrochloride. This drug is currently only licensed for use in dogs with cognitive dysfunction, but some behaviorists and veterinarians have reported improvement in cats as well. Your veterinarian may also consider an anti-anxiety medication.
Inappropriate elimination is a common symptom of FCD. In fact, it’s the most common reason that older cats are seen by behaviorists. Any number of medical problems can contribute to inappropriate elimination, including sensory decline, neuromuscular conditions that affect mobility, brain tumors, kidney dysfunction and endocrine system disorders. In short, any disorder that increases your cat’s frequency of elimination or decreases her bladder or bowel control can cause house soiling. Accordingly, the first step in treating inappropriate elimination in any cat, regardless of age, is to take her to her veterinarian for a thorough examination.
If your cat’s veterinarian rules out medical problems, the following suggestions may help:
Confusion and Disorientation
Disorientation is often the first sign that pet parents recognize as cognitive decline in their older cats. It’s estimated that disorientation occurs in at least 40% of cats aged 17 years and older.
Disorientation may be reduced by increasing the predictability of your cat’s environment and schedule. Avoid changes to her food, food placement, litter and litter box placement. Try to keep her daily routine as consistent as possible. If she’s really distressed, it may be best to confine her to a relatively small space, such as one floor of your house or, in advanced cases, one room. Doing this will make it easy for her to find everything she needs.
Restlessness and Waking at Night
A cat’s sleep-wake cycle can be impaired by FCD. However, as with most symptoms of FCD, there are also many alternative reasons for increased nighttime activity. For instance, cats who sleep more during the day can become more restless and active at night. Sensory changes, such as eyesight or hearing loss, can affect your cat’s depth of sleep. An increased need to eliminate combined with a decreased ability to locate or access a litter box can prompt your cat to wake up and wander around. Ask your cat’s veterinarian to do a complete examination to identify medical problems that could cause restlessness, discomfort or an increased need to eliminate. At the same time, try to reestablish your cat’s normal sleeping and waking hours. It’s best to increase her activity level by engaging her in play during the day and in the evening so she’ll want to sleep at night.
Anxiety can also cause increased restlessness at night. A distinct feature of geriatric anxiety is that it can manifest as nighttime anxiety. It may be anxiety about being separated from family members (who are asleep) or worry about navigating the house in the dark. Your cat may keep you awake by calling, pacing in your room, purring by your head and by pawing at you for attention. FCD anxiety can improve with drug therapy. You can also consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) and your veterinarian, or a veterinary behaviorist (Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior, Dip ACVB) to see if medication may be helpful. Please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, to locate a professional behaviorist in your area.
Older cats may vocalize excessively for a number of reasons, including disorientation, loss of hearing and pain due to one or more medical conditions. (Please see our article, Meowing and Yowling, for more information about excessive vocalizing and how to resolve it.) As with other symptoms of FCD, your first step should be to take your cat to her veterinarian for a thorough examination to rule out or treat any medical problems.
FCD generally increases vocalizations related to anxiety, disorientation and separation distress. Anxious vocalizing is usually a plaintive meow. Your senior cat’s vocalizing can become a problem if she does it too often or at inappropriate times, like when you’re sleeping. Showing your own frustration or punishing your cat for vocalizing can increase her anxiety and aggravate the problem. It’s better to treat increased vocalization by increasing your cat’s activity during the day and gradually reestablishing her proper sleep-wake cycle.
Pheromone or drug therapy may help your cat feel less anxious. You can use feline pheromone sprays or diffusers in areas where your cat normally spends her time. Anti-anxiety medication can also help reduce vocalizations. You can also seek advice from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) and your veterinarian, or a veterinary behaviorist (Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior, Dip ACVB). Please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, to locate a professional behaviorist in your area.
This helpful information is from: www.aspca.org
Aggression in Cats
Aggression is the second most common feline behavior problem seen by animal behaviorists. Although cat aggression is sometimes taken less seriously than dog aggression—perhaps because cats are smaller and don’t pursue people to bite them—aggressive cats can be formidable. They have five potential weapons (their teeth and all four clawed paws) compared to a dogs’ sole weapon of his or her mouth. Cats can bite and inflict severe lacerations, which are painful and can easily become infected. They can also cause cat scratch fever, a usually benign but potentially serious infectious disease that causes flu-like symptoms. Fights between cats rarely result in fatalities, but they can lead to infections and result in considerable veterinary expenses for cat parents. Aggressive cats can be risky to have at home and can pose a real danger to family and visitors.
What Is Aggression?
Aggression is threatening or harmful behavior directed toward a person, another cat or other animals. Virtually all wild animals display aggression to guard their territories, defend their offspring and protect themselves if attacked. Aggression refers to a wide variety of complex behaviors that occur for different reasons under various circumstances. In pet cats, aggressive behavior can range from cats who hiss and avoid the target of their aggression to cats who attack.
Understanding Cat Body Language
Understanding what cats are communicating through their body language is essential for cat parents. It enables them to more accurately “read” their cats and understand their feelings and motivations for doing what they do. It also helps them respond more effectively to behavior issues like aggression.
Body language is made up of cats’ body postures, facial expressions, and the position and carriage of certain body parts, like ears, tail and even whiskers. Cat body language is more subtle than dog body language and can be harder for people to interpret. Knowing the basic postures and what they mean can help cat parents deal with problems more effectively and enjoy their cat’s company more fully because they can understand a common language.
Threats and aggression can be either offensive or defensive. An offensively aggressive cat tries to make himself look bigger and more intimidating, whereas a defensively aggressive cat adopts a self-protective posture and tries to make himself look smaller. The following are typical postures seen in feline aggression. A rule of thumb is to not touch, attempt to reassure, or punish cats showing these postures!
Offensive postures include:
Defensive postures include:
Classification of Aggressive Behavior
If your cat has been aggressive in the past or you suspect he could become aggressive, take time to evaluate the situations that got him upset. Who did he aggress toward? When and where did it happen? What was going on during the half-hour or so leading up to the incident? What was about to happen to your cat? Determining the answers to these questions can clarify the circumstances that trigger your cat’s aggressive reaction and provide insight into why he’s behaving this way. You need to understand the cause of your cat’s aggression and his motivation for it before you can help him.
Keep in mind that a number of medical conditions can cause or contribute to your cat’s aggression, including toxoplasmosis, hyperthyroidism, epilepsy, abscesses, arthritis, dental disease, rabies, trauma, and sensory decline or cognitive dysfunction in older cats. The first step in resolving your cat’s aggression problem is to have a complete veterinary exam to assess his physical health.
Aggressive behavior problems in cats can be classified in different ways. A good way to understand why your cat is aggressive is to think about the function or purpose of the aggression. If you consider all the reasons why cats behave aggressively, you can determine what motivates your cat to do so and identify what he might gain from his behavior.
The most obvious and easily understood type of aggression between cats occurs between unneutered males. As males reach adulthood, they often begin to challenge each other for access to mates and territory. Tom cats who roam will get into threatening stand-offs and actual fights. They sit or stand stiffly, their hackles up, and stare at each other. Their ears are swiveled backward, and they often growl, hiss and howl loudly. One cat might eventually slowly leave, or one or both of them might attack.
Aggression between household cats is more subtle and complex than the conflicts between two outdoor toms. It can be so subtle, in fact, that cat parents don’t notice it. The aggressor cat postures, and the recipient makes himself look smaller and may break away to avoid the aggressor. The aggression can occur between females or between females and males. It can be related to physical size and activity (large cats often intimidate smaller or less active cats), to a lack of pleasant social experiences with other cats, to an accidentally learned association between the other cat and something unpleasant (like fireworks or thunder), or to a simple personality clash. Please see our article, Aggression Between Cats in Your Household, for more information about this problem.
Fearful or Defensive
Fear aggression can occur when a cat perceives a threat, and it escalates if he can’t escape. The more threatening the person, animal, object or sound seems to the cat, the more heightened his fear reaction will be. Typical body postures associated with fearful or defensive aggression are a combination of defensive signals (such as crouching, flattening the ears, tucking the tail, leaning away or rolling onto the side, and pupil dilation) and aggressive signals (such as hissing and spitting, piloerection, growling, swatting, biting and scratching). Aggressive signals are especially likely to be displayed if a cat can’t escape the thing he fears. Often the best way to deal with a defensively aggressive cat is to simply avoid him until he calms down.
Animals of many species strive to expel or keep out other individuals from their territory, and cats are no exception. Both male and female cats are territorial, but males may defend larger territories than females. Cats’ territorial aggression is usually directly toward other cats, but it can be directed toward dogs and people, too. A cat can show territorial aggression toward some family members and not others and toward some cats but not others. Cats mark their turf by patrolling, chin rubbing and urine spraying. They may stalk, chase and ambush a targeted intruder while displaying offensive body postures, including hissing, swatting and growling. Some cats take a slow and steady approach in their stalking, while others immediately and aggressively give chase. A cat’s perceived territory could be the entire house or part of it, the yard, the block or the neighborhood.
Some of the most common situations that trigger territoriality are:
Rough play is common and natural among kittens and young cats less than two years of age. Despite the playful intentions of a cat, however, when such play is directed toward people or becomes overly rambunctious, it can cause injury to people or damage household items. Play aggression is the most common type of aggressive behavior that cats direct toward their owners. It involves typical predatory and play behaviors, including stalking, chasing, attacking, running, ambushing, pouncing, leaping, batting, swatting, grasping, fighting and biting. It’s believed that through play with each other, young cats learn to inhibit their bites and sheathe their claws when swatting. The degree to which individual cats learn to inhibit their rough play varies, and those who were orphaned or weaned early might never have learned to temper their play behavior. Other factors that can contribute to play aggression are long hours spent alone without opportunities to play, and if pet parents encourage their cats to chase and attack people’s hands and feet in play.
Redirected aggression is probably the most dangerous type of cat aggression because the bites are uninhibited and the attacks can be frightening and damaging. Unfortunately, it’s also a very common type of feline aggression. Redirected aggression occurs when a cat is aggressively aroused and agitated by an animal or person he can’t get at (because there’s a window between them, for example). Unable to get to the trigger of his agitation, he turns and lashes out at someone—person, dog or cat—who is nearby or who approaches him. There can be considerable delay between the initial arousal and the redirected aggression, as long as hours. This is why cat parents sometimes describe this kind of aggression as unprovoked or “out of the blue.” They weren’t even aware of the initial trigger (for example, a cat outside who passed by 30 minutes before the attack). A redirected attack occurs only if an agitated cat is approached or there’s someone close by. The cat won’t go looking for someone to attack! It’s not a malicious or even intentional type of aggression. It’s almost like a reflex, done automatically without thought. This is why it’s never a good idea to break up a cat fight or approach an agitated cat showing defensive or offensive aggression postures.
Some common triggers for redirected aggression are:
Some cats enjoy being petted, held, carried and even hugged. Some merely tolerate these activities with their owners, or they like being petted but not carried. And a few don’t like being petted at all. Petting-induced aggression occurs when a cat suddenly feels irritated by being petted, nips or lightly bites the person petting him, and then jumps up and runs off. This type of aggression isn’t well understood, but behaviorists think that physical contact, like stroking, can quickly become unpleasant if it’s repeated over and over. Repetitive contact can cause arousal, excitement, pain and even static electricity in a cat’s fur. Imagine if someone rubbed your back but, instead of moving his hand all over your back, he rubbed in just one spot, over and over. That could quickly become unpleasant. Your cat might feel the same way: what started out feeling good is now irritating, and he wants you to stop. This type of aggression is more common in males than females. When your cat signals you to stop petting, the best response is simply to stop.
With careful observation of your cat’s communication signals, you’ll usually see warning signs, such as:
Pain-Induced and Irritable
Pain-induced and irritable aggression are triggered by pain, frustration or deprivation, and they can be directed toward people, animals and objects. Any animal—including humans—can aggress when in pain. So even a well-socialized, normally docile cat can lash out when he’s hurt, when someone tries to touch a painful part of him (for example, to medicate his infected ears), or when he’s in pain and he anticipates being handled because someone is approaching him. Cats with aggression problems should always be examined for underlying medical problems, especially painful diseases such as arthritis, dental pain and abscesses from fighting. Painful punishment is not only ineffective for changing cat behavior, it can also trigger pain-induced aggression and worsen other types of aggression, like fear and territorial aggression. Body postures will usually be defensive.
All mothers have instincts to protect their offspring from potential danger. Maternal aggression can occur when a mother cat (called the queen) with her kittens is approached by people or other animals whom she perceives as a threat. It’s more often directed and other cats, but it can be directed toward people, too. Queens can be quite aggressive when defending their young, especially in the first few days after birth. For this reason, it’s a good idea to avoid handling kittens during the first few days of their lives.
The classification of idiopathic aggression includes any type of aggression whose cause can’t be determined or explained through behavior history or medical exam. Cats with this type of aggression can attack their owners violently. They may bite repeatedly and remain in an aroused state for long periods of time. Redirected aggression must be closely considered and ruled out as a possible cause before a diagnosis of idiopathic aggression is made. These cats are dangerous, and pet parents of such cats should carefully assess their quality of life, as well as the safety of those around them.
Cats are predators, and predatory behaviors are completely natural and highly motivated behaviors for them. Many experts don’t classify predation as aggression because its purpose is to obtain food—unlike other types of aggression, which are responses to conflict. Cats are superb hunters. They use their acute vision and sensitivity to high-pitched sounds to locate their prey. They hunt insects, reptiles, rodents, young rabbits and birds. Most cats specialize in rodents, such as mice and voles, but a few become good at killing birds. When a cat detects potential prey, his predatory sequence of behaviors starts with silent stalking, watching and waiting for the perfect moment to strike (his rear end might wobble from side to side and his tail might twitch). Then he’ll finally sprint toward the prey and strike it with his front paws. If he’s successful, he’ll deliver a killing bite that all cat species use—he’ll bite the prey at the back of the neck to sever the spinal cord. If your cat likes to watch out the windows, you may have seen him become focused, twitch the end of his tail and move his mouth to make a strange chattering sound. When cats do this, it’s because they’ve detected prey that they’d like to hunt.
Always Work with Your Veterinarian
A medical workup is essential for all aggressive cats. Some cats behave aggressively because of a medical condition or complication. In addition to acute painful conditions, cats with orthopedic problems, thyroid abnormality, adrenal dysfunction, cognitive dysfunction, neurological disorders and sensory deficits can show increased irritability and aggression. Geriatric cats can suffer from confusion and insecurity, which could prompt aggressive behavior. Certain medications can alter mood and affect your cat’s susceptibility to aggression. Even diet has been implicated as a potential contributing factor. If a medical problem is detected, it’s crucial to work closely with your veterinarian to give your cat the best chance at improving.
Always Work with a Professional
Aggression can be a dangerous behavior problem. It is complex to diagnose and can be tricky to treat. Many behavior modification techniques have detrimental effects if misapplied. Even highly experienced professionals get bitten from time to time, so living with and treating an aggressive cat is inherently risky. A qualified professional can take a complete behavior history, develop a treatment plan customized for your cat and coach you through its implementation. She can monitor your cat’s progress and make alterations to the plan as required. If appropriate, she can also help you decide when your cat’s quality of life is too poor or when the risks of living with your cat are too high and euthanasia is warranted. Please see our article,Finding Professional Behavior Help, to locate a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) in your area for guidance.
Hetts, Suzanne. (1999). Pet Behavior Protocols. Lakewood, CO: AAHA Press.
This helpful information is from: www.aspca.org/
Aggression Between Cats in Your Household
Some cats just won’t give peace a chance. There are several reasons that cats might not get along. The most common is undersocialization—a lack of pleasant experiences with other cats early in life. If your cat grew up as the only cat, with little or no contact with other felines, he may react strongly when he’s finally introduced to another cat because he’s afraid of the unknown, he lacks feline social skills, and he dislikes the disruption to his routine and environment. Cats tend to prefer consistency over change. This is especially true if the change involves a newcomer to your cat’s well-established territory. Cats are a territorial species. While some cats overlap their territories a great deal, others prefer to keep a good distance from their neighbors. Two unrelated males or two unrelated females may have a particularly hard time sharing space. Another cause of strife may be a feline personality clash. Cats usually don’t get to pick their housemates, and sometimes we humans just don’t select the right match. In some cases, however, cats get along just fine until something scary or unpleasant (like fireworks or the odor of the veterinary clinic) becomes associated with the other cat. In other cases, relationships change as the cats mature. If one cat reaches the age of one to three years old and then trouble brews, social maturation may be a factor.
Any sudden change in your cat’s behavior could be an indication of an underlying medical condition. If you notice any unusual physical or behavioral symptoms, or if your cat stops eating, please see your veterinarian right away.
Other Types of Aggression to Consider
A female cat with a litter of kittens may hiss, growl, chase, swat or try to bite another cat who approaches, even one with whom she was formerly friendly. Maternal aggression usually subsides once the kittens are weaned. It’s a good idea to spay maternally aggressive cats to prevent future litters and future aggression problems.
It’s common for kittens and young cats to engage in rough, active play because all feline play consists of mock aggression. Cats stalk, chase, sneak, pounce, swat, kick, scratch, ambush, attack and bite each other—all in good fun. If they’re playing, it’s reciprocal. They change roles frequently. Their ears are typically forward in play, their claws may be out but they don’t cause damage, and their bodies lean forward not back.
Suggestions for Managing Your Cats
If the Aggression Is Mild or Between Two Cats Who Used to Get Along
If the Aggression Is Severe or Occurs Between Cats Who Have Never Gotten Along
If Your Cats Still Can’t Get Along
Don’t hesitate to contact a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) for guidance. One of these qualified experts can evaluate the problem and help you manage or resolve the conflict between your cats. To find a behaviorist in your area, please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help.
Some cats simply cannot live together peacefully. Since chronic stress and tension isn’t healthy for people or pets, rather than force them to suffer years of stressful coexistence, it may be more humane to keep them permanently separated in the house or find another home for one of them.
This helpful information is from: www.aspca.org
Introducing a New Cat
The first step in creating harmony between your new cat and the existing cats in your household is to pick the best possible new cat for your household and lifestyle. All cats are individuals, and some may merge into your household better than others.
Choosing a new cat
Cats who previously lived with another cat are more likely to get along with other cats than a cat who was an “only child.” Think about the things that the cats already in your home like to do. If they like to play, getting another playful cat is probably a good idea. If your cats prefer to lie in the sun all day, you’re probably better off adopting a cat who has similar habits. A young kitten or adolescent is probably not a good idea for a household with an older or grumpy cat.
Reducing the likelihood of problems
Even if the cat you are adopting is good with other cats, there is always the possibility of problems when introducing strangers to each other. There are several steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood of problems. Before bringing your new cat home, create a separate “territory” for her. This area should be equipped with food, water, a scratching post, a litter box, access to natural sunlight, and comfortable resting places.
Your other cats should have their own separate territory. Make certain that both areas (the space for the new cat and the space for the other cats) contain multiple hiding places so the cats can easily retreat if necessary. Large cardboard boxes with holes cut in two sides make great hiding places. The second hole allows the cat to escape if cornered by another cat. The boxes will come into play once you start allowing the cats to interact directly, but it can be helpful to introduce the boxes first, so that the cats become accustomed to using them. Keep in mind that cats like to hide in high places, so remove fragile items from shelves or block access to the shelves.
Place your new cat in her space as soon as she arrives home, and spend a minimum of one hour with her (and the other cats in the household) per day. Play with them regularly and watch them closely for signs of stress or anxiety, such as hiding, aggressive behavior, decreased appetite, and/or excessive vocalization. If you see any of these signs, your cat could be suffering from stress. If the signs persist for more than several days and/or if your cat stops eating, consult with your veterinarian.
If any cat is showing mild signs of stress, give him or her time to acclimate to the new situation. If all the cats appear comfortable in their spaces, place the new cat in a different room (equipped with the same amenities) after two days, and allow your other cats to enter the new cat’s original territory. This will allow each cat to become accustomed to each other’s scent in a non-threatening way. Allow the cats to acclimate to their new areas for one day.
Here’s another way to introduce cats to each other’s scent: Cats have glands in their cheeks that produce pheromones. When your cat rubs her cheek against a wall, chair, or your leg, she produces pheromones, which are chemical substances that can help to relieve anxiety and provide information about the cat who is producing those pheromones. Exposing each cat to towels that were gently rubbed on the new cat’s cheeks may be a good way to introduce them. Some cats respond very well to a synthetic pheromone (a spray or diffuser), a product that can be bought online or in pet supply stores.
Next, you can start allowing the cats closer access to each other by placing them on either side of a closed door so that they can smell each other directly. The next step is to allow them to see each other through a baby gate or a door that is propped open two inches. If the cats are interested in each other and seem comfortable, allow them to meet. Open the door to the rooms between the cats and observe them closely.
If any cat shows signs of significant stress or aggression, separate them again and introduce them more slowly. Once the cats have acclimated to being allowed to sniff each other through a door, bring each cat into a large room, on opposite sides. If you have a willing helper, each person should play, pet and/or give food treats to one of the cats. If you do not have a helper, place the more comfortable cat in a cat carrier with a bowl of canned cat food to keep him occupied and play with the other cat. Over multiple sessions, gradually bring the cats closer to each other. This exercise teaches the cats that they get special rewards in each other’s presence, and that nothing bad is happening. With time, the cats will learn that they are not a serious threat to each other.
Creating a happy home
Remember, an anxious cat is much more likely to behave aggressively than a cat who is comfortable and relaxed. If you use patience in the initial stages of the introduction process, you will probably increase your chances of a harmonious household.
The above recommendations are guidelines to increase the likelihood that your new cat will get along with the existing cat(s) in your household. If you have tried these techniques and your cats are still not getting along, please seek the help of your veterinarian or a behaviorist.
This helpful information is from: http://bestfriends.org
Bringing a New Cat Home
Congratulations, you’ve decided to adopt a cat!
To ease integration into your home, take into consideration where your cat came from. Was she staying in a cage, in a room, or in a foster home? Were there other cats living with her or was she alone? Was the environment noisy or quiet? How often did she eat and where did she sleep?
Changing all of these factors in her environment all at once can be very stressful. In order to integrate your new cat into your house and life as smoothly as possible, you must be able to recognize the signs of stress while changing her living situation slowly over time. With this method, you are initially maintaining her previous routine, while changing to your routine over time.
First, prepare to welcome your cat home by making sure you have these items on hand:
Recognizing signs of stress
Your new cat will likely be stressed initially. Signs of stress can include decreased appetite, decreased grooming, hiding, lack of interest in attention or affection, and sleeping in unusual locations. A stressed cat may be more quiet than usual, which can be difficult to notice. Very stressed cats are more likely to behave aggressively or fearfully.
If you’ve adopted a cat from a shelter, this is most likely your cat’s third “home” in a fairly short time period. Even though your house is probably much more comfortable than the shelter where she came from, change is stressful. Watch for signs of stress, and if you see them, make certain that they lessen over time. If her stress is not slowly decreasing every day, you should seek the help of a behaviorist or your veterinarian.
Your cat’s environment
Many cats are fearful when introduced to their new home; being moved from a small enclosure to an apartment or house is a big change. Your home also has different smells and noises than the shelter and the home where your cat lived before. Initially, confine your new cat to one room. Your bedroom or the living room often works well for this. Make sure that you provide your new cat with food, water, and a litter box (see below), and that you regularly spend time in this room with her, so that she is not alone.
Provide her with multiple hiding places. A cardboard box with holes cut in both sides (so she can go in and out each side) and a blanket placed in the bottom can be a great hiding place. Be certain to provide her with hiding places on the ground, as well as up high. When she is in her hiding place, do not disturb her. Her hiding places should be her special places, where she can have privacy if desired.
Place a scratching post or cat tree in her room. Place her scent on the cat tree by gently stroking her cheeks with a towel, and then rubbing the scratching post with the towel. This will transfer her scent onto the scratching post, thereby increasing the likelihood that she will use it.
Let your cat adjust to the room, and to you. Do not force her to stay near you if you wish to pet her. Instead, coax her to you by playing with an interactive toy or staying near her food bowl while she is eating. Once she realizes that this stranger (you) provides all the same good things that her previous owner did (and maybe even more!), she will warm quickly to you and accept your attention.
After three days, or once your cat is comfortably walking around and living in this room, expand her access to the entire house. For some cats, it may take several weeks before they are comfortable in their room and can be allowed access to the whole house.
Cats eat less when they are stressed, and sometimes stop eating altogether. It is extremely important to make sure that your cat is eating regularly (and adequate amounts) once you have brought him home. If possible, buy the same type of food that the shelter used. If he is not eating, try mixing a little bit of a tastier food, such as canned cat food or baby food, into his meal.
After two days, or once he is eating regularly, slowly change him over to the diet that you would like to feed him (if different from what he got at the shelter). Make sure you feed your cat high-quality food. On the first and second days, feed him 25 percent of your diet and 75 percent of the shelter’s diet, mixed together. On the third and fourth days, give him 50 percent of each. On the fifth and sixth days, switch to 75 percent of your diet and 25 percent of the shelter’s diet. On the seventh day, feed him 100 percent of your preferred diet. Changing your cat’s diet too rapidly can cause upset to his system (decreased appetite, vomiting, and/or diarrhea). If this happens, call your veterinarian.
Decide whether you wish to feed your cat once daily, twice daily or free choice (which means leaving dry food out at all times). Many cats who are fed free choice do not properly control their food intake and tend to be overweight, which predisposes them to health problems. For most cats, twice-daily feeding is ideal. You can also put some of your cat’s daily ration into a food-dispensing toy. Food-dispensing toys are a fun way for your cat to “hunt” for his food, and are a great way to enrich his life. Do not start using a food-dispensing toy until your cat has completely settled into your home, after about two to three weeks.
Provide your cat with an uncovered, clean litter box. Covered litter boxes can trap odors inside the box, which is nice for you, but not for your cat. Cats are often quite fastidious; they are sensitive to the smell of urine and feces, as well as deodorizers. Reducing the smell inside and around the litter box can be very important for them. Scoop out the litter box once daily, and empty it completely to clean it every two weeks. When you clean the litter box, use a mild soap, not strong-smelling detergents or ammonia.
The most common reason that cats are brought to shelters is litter box problems. Following the above recommendations can make the difference between a cat who is house-trained and a cat who isn’t. Remember that if you do not like the smell of the litter box, your cat probably doesn’t either; keep it clean and you’ll have a happy cat.
There are many different toys that your cat might like to play with. Cats like novelty, so buy several different types of toys for her and try them out. Play with the toys with your cat; do not set them out and expect her to play with them on her own. If she is not interested in them for the first few days, give her time, and try different toys. Do not play with your cat with your hands. Using your hands as a toy teaches your cat that it is okay to bite or scratch you.
Indoors vs. outdoors
One of the big decisions cat owners must make is whether to allow their cat outside. There are many risks outdoors that can shorten your cat’s life span. He could be hit by a car, poisoned, attacked by a dog, or infected with an incurable virus. However, many cats really enjoy being outdoors and miss the stimulation of the natural world if they are kept inside all the time.
There are several different ways that you can allow your cat to enjoy the outdoors without the risk. You can install perches on windowsills around the house so that your cat can sit at the window, watch the outdoors, and enjoy the sunlight. With patience, you can teach your cat to walk with a harness or leash, and then you can take him outdoors for walks.
Another option is to build or buy an outdoor enclosure (often called a cattery or catio) for your cat. You can search the Internet for “cat enclosures” or “catios” to find out what other people have done. Catio Showcaseand www.catiodesigns.com have lots of photos and helpful information about different kinds of cat enclosures. At www.cdpets.com, you can buy a prefab cattery. If building a cattery is too ambitious a project for you, check out the many alternatives offered by Kittywalk Systems. Another popular way to give your cat the freedom of the outdoors is with Cat Fence-In, a product that makes it impossible for cats to climb over regular backyard fencing.
The key to successful integration of your new cat into your home is being aware of the signs of stress, and making sure that they remain minimal. Change her environment slowly. Remember that although these recommendations work for most cats, they will not work for every cat. If your cat is showing signs of stress and is not improving, please contact your veterinarian or a behaviorist.
This helpful information is from: http://bestfriends.org
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